The Senate’s top Republican said Thursday that the broad 12-nation Pacific Rim trade deal championed by President Obama will remain on ice until another president revives it.
And with both current presidential nominees opposed to the deal’s ratification, that could be the death knell for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, barring a major shift from Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump.
“Since they negotiate the deals and they send them up, the president is a big, big player in trade,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said at a news conference. “If we were going to have another discussion about trade, it would have to be led by whoever the next president is.”
Obama has made a renewed push in recent months for congressional ratification of the trade agreement, known as the TPP, with an eye toward persuading Congress to hold a vote on the deal in the post-election lame-duck session. The president has called the largest regional trade and regulatory deal in history one of his top economic priorities and a crucial strategic initiative in the fast-growing Asia Pacific, where the administration has sought to hedge against China’s growing influence.
McConnell, who had previously ruled out a lame-duck trade vote, reiterated that position Thursday.
“Let’s just be honest about the political environment,” he said. “I believe if it were brought up this year it would be defeated anyway — leading you to raise the obvious question: If you’re interested in America still being in the trading business in the future, in what way is it advantageous to have a trade agreement go down?”
Obama aides have suggested that McConnell is reluctant to move forward on trade before the election to protect vulnerable Republican incumbents and GOP candidates from having to weigh in on the pact in manufacturing-heavy swing states, such as Ohio and Pennsylvania. But the administration officials have privately expressed hope that McConnell will change his mind after the election.